Linux Blog

Ubuntu Unleashed 2010 Edition Review

Filed under: General Linux — TheLinuxBlog.com at 11:36 am on Monday, January 25, 2010

Irritated with my Desktop after an upgrade gone bad and an incident with the nvidia noveau driver that left me x less, I decided it was time to re-install. I turned to my bookshelf to find Ubuntu Unleashed 2010 Edition. Normally by the time a book hits my shelf the material is outdated, not necessarily useless, just not the most up to date. This is an exception. The Ubuntu Unleashed 2010 Edition was updated with an Ubuntu 9.10 DVD and a “Free Upgrade to Ubuntu 10.04″ which I found out that if you buy the book before the end of 2010 you can get an upgrade kit in the mail.

So, I pop the DVD in the drive and start the installation. Nothing new here for anyone that has installed Linux or Ubuntu recently; for those that haven’t, it was a pleasant surprise to see that it actually detected my high resolution monitor and used it to its advantage. It really is strange to not have to squint at an installer. The first chapter covers the step by step installation in more detail which is relatively short and easy to follow. Most people should not need to read this if they are familiar with installing an operating system but it I think it is good to have it there. Just don’t let this first chapter prevent you from looking further into this book. After putting the DVD in and getting it started, I found myself reading the book through the entire installation; which for some reason got from 0-90% quickly, then took the majority of the time in the 90% range, but I’m not complaining.

The Authors really did a good job of writing in an understandable language and organizing the book in a logical format. I’ve found myself flipping through and finding many golden nuggets of information. I personally would not have picked this book up because of the title, since I’m not a big Ubuntu user. But Ubuntu Unleashed 2010 edition is packed full of information, 32 chapters and a hefty appendix to be exact. It is not all Ubuntu – specific either, meaning most of the content should work on just about distribution. This book would not be rendered useless if you don’t decide to go the Ubuntu route. I recommend taking a look at the contents and buying this book, as I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the topics it covers. I think it would be a great book for someone that is interested in Linux in general, it reads well but can also be used as a quick reference. I wish I had a book like this when I was getting started, it would have saved me a whole lot of time and effort. I have set aside some of the more advanced chapters and made a note to read later.

Other reviews I’ve read have said that it has too much terminal use in it, which is something Ubuntu is trying to eliminate. While this may be true, if you want the most out of your Linux distribution, the fact is you will at some point use a terminal. Commands are less likely to change as much as graphical interfaces. Although some things may be slightly outdated I don’t think that this book should be re-written, as it is in the nature of open source and technology to change. If you keep this in mind I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with it.



The Economy and Open Source

Filed under: General Linux — TheLinuxBlog.com at 11:53 am on Monday, October 6, 2008

The word on the street, at least all over the news is that we could be heading into bad times. All over the news sites are articles on how Open Source will or could save you money. For individuals that know about GNU/Linux, it is not a question that if you are building a new PC and you run Linux, you are going to save $100 from not having to buy an operating system. Often there are comparable applications that may be used as alternatives and a little more money could be saved. Many argue that time is money, you get your licenses when you buy a new PC, etc. I don’t know the exact answer, it’s hard to say for each individual case but I have not spent any money on software in a long time.

I don’t know if Open Source will gain more momentum because of the economy and I don’t think that any one knows for sure. All that can be done is speculate and correlate data.

Here are some Links to other articles on this topic for those that are interested:
Open Source To The Rescue In Hard Times
http://www.informationweek.com/blog/main/archives/2008/10/open_source_to.html

Linux and FOSS in a Slowing Economy
http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/linux-and-foss-slowing-economy

Linux Needs More Haters!

Filed under: General Linux — TheLinuxBlog.com at 1:54 pm on Friday, July 18, 2008

In response to Jeremy Allison from ZDNet’s Blogs who claims not to be a blogger! Sorry, I thought about saying I have a “column” too but it just doesn’t work when you have “blog” in your URL. But onto the main topic of this post: LinuxHater!

I’m read linuxhater and I’m still a luser. Linux is the operating system that people love to hate. If you haven’t ever read http://linuxhater.blogspot.com before I’d give it a look. Its a great read, and I don’t think that Linux users should take it to heart, I can understand that some people may get upset from the effort that they personally put into a project, but if your not willing to admit your flaws where is the room for growth?

To improve criticism is needed and the LinuxHater blog definitely has lots to say and doesn’t always go about discussing the issues in a dignified way, but if you read it in good fun its great!

The New Gentoo

Filed under: General Linux,Linux Software — TheLinuxBlog.com at 9:23 am on Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I don’t keep up with releases of new Linux distributions really. If I did then I probably wouldn’t have time to write on this blog, but I noticed that Gentoo was released on Sunday the 6th of July (http://www.gentoo.org/news/20080706-release-2008.0.xml) I’ve never been a big Gentoo guy, I’ve dabbled with it but it never really caught my attention. I think it may be time for me to revisit Gentoo, at least in a virtual environment to check it out again. I do have a need for a small footprint, easy to maintain and expandable operating system. I have been using Slackware for simplicity and small footprint, but it is not the easiest to maintain or expand. Gentoo on the over hand can be configured well, updates easily and is pretty expandable through portage and emerge. The only thing that concerns me is the compile time, often the reason I want a minimal installation is for a project that has to run on less than adequate hardware. Using Gentoo rather than another distribution could be a problem since it seems like it takes for ever to install by copying and extracting files, let alone compile them.

Anyhow, have fun with the new Gentoo!

Ubuntu a generic distro

Filed under: General Linux — Kaleb at 2:04 pm on Friday, April 4, 2008

Ok so I was checking my daily digg news and i came across one of the more popular things dug that day which was Is Ubuntu becoming the generic Linux distro?

Ok now aside from the fact that this guy has had a total of like a year of Linux use and is not very well formed to actually express his opinion on the statement, I agree with his opinion. I suggest you read his blog to understand fully what this article will entail but to sum it up, he thinks that Ubuntu is becoming Linux and that to some new users Linux is Ubuntu.

I think he is right in this aspect. Many new users that I have talked to seem to think that Ubuntu is Linux and Linux is Ubuntu which you may or may not know is not true. Ubuntu is Linux yes, but Linux is not Ubuntu. I do not think that Ubuntu being a “generic” Linux distro is a bad thing. However I think it is a bad thing when new Linux users use Ubuntu and only Ubuntu because it does not express the actual power of Linux which is the community and the openness. Some new Ubuntuers (Ubuntu users) seem to think that by using Ubuntu they are getting the full Linux experience and that all Linux distros are the same or worse. So why change? Now you should all know that all Linux distros are not the same, and that they are definitely not worse. The thing about Linux is that one distro is not for everybody. Each distro has its uses and different users may like different distros for what they do. For example I use Gentoo and Arch Linux because I think Gentoo gives you the best performance and options for software packages, and that Arch gives you a very clean and fast operating system. Very fast (if you haven’t tried arch I suggest you do, it has the fastest package manager I have seen). And Owen likes Slackware for his reasons. That right there sums up the power of Linux.

I think that having a generic Linux distro is a good thing in some areas, for example, like what Ubuntu has been doing so far it brings lots of new users to the Linux world from both Windows and Macintosh worlds. However like I previously stated. Linux is not Ubuntu, so what do we need to do, show these new Ubuntuers the way. Show them out into the openness of the Linux world and express to them that Ubuntu is not the only way to go. What I suggested on my comment to this guys post was that (I know it will never happen because Ubuntu wants users and does not care about the other distros) Ubuntu should have some kind of a post install pop-up that has something like “Ubuntu is not for everyone, try out some of these other Linux distros…” and have it list some other distros that Ubuntu has partnered with. Doing something like this, I think would drastically increase the power of the Linux community as it continues to bring new users to the Linux world.

Now with that said, I think that us non-Ubuntu users should not poke fun of those Ubuntuers, like I have seen countless times on IRC and forums and what not. What we should express for them is that there may be another, better way to go, which may be in the form of a different Linux distro.

This has been my rant on Ubuntu as a generic Linux distro, thanks for reading

Kaleb Porter

porterboy55@yahoo.com

IRC: magma_camel (find me in the #archlinux channel on chat.freenode.com)

http://kpstuff.servebeer.com (my website is undergoing hardcore maintenance so it is currently offline)

Linux Conference This Weekend

Filed under: The Linux Blog News — TheLinuxBlog.com at 12:44 am on Saturday, January 12, 2008

This weekend is FUDCon which happens to be in Raleigh. I’ll be making my way down there tomorrow and will be participating. For those of you who don’t know FUDCon is not Fear Uncertainty and Doubt like I first thought but its a Fedora Users and Developers Conference. It actually started today but is going to be on for the whole weekend. Although I don’t run Fedora as my operating system of choice I do use it from time to time and am interested in some of the events they have going on.

For more information visit: http://barcamp.org/FUDConRaleigh2008

If you happen to be in the area and attend the conference, be sure to say “hi”. I’m not sure what time I will be there but you should see my name tag.

Bash, PHP or Perl?

Filed under: Shell Script Sundays — TheLinuxBlog.com at 12:23 pm on Sunday, January 6, 2008

One thing that is for certain is that some people like performance. Running an operating system like Linux gives you choices right out of the box for scripting. This blog post will show the differences in times between Bash, PHP and Perl.

Basically what I have done is created three scripts, one in each language. Then I run them with the time tool to test out the execution time.

Here are the results of echoing 1-100000 out to /dev/null for each script:

BASH:
 
real    0m1.966s
user    0m1.664s
sys     0m0.072s
 
PHP:
 
real    0m0.309s
user    0m0.220s
sys     0m0.048s
 
Perl:
 
real    0m0.126s
user    0m0.096s
sys     0m0.000s

You can clearly see out of this the order of performance by this test is Perl, PHP and then BASH. Now, what is interesting is when I run the script to stdout these are the results:

BASH:
 
real    0m8.689s
user    0m2.408s
sys     0m0.416s
 
PHP:
 
real    0m4.381s
user    0m0.544s
sys     0m0.372s
 
Perl:
 
real    0m3.938s
user    0m0.244s
sys     0m0.324s

Bash takes about twice as long as Perl / PHP to complete the exact same task. The winner of this test is Perl but I’ll be doing more tests over time when I become more familiar with Perl

Ubuntu & Gentoo Servers compromised

Filed under: General Linux — TheLinuxBlog.com at 11:00 pm on Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The case of the Ubuntu servers being breached [wiki.ubuntu.com]
Missing security updates and system administrators not running updates on servers is a problem. I don’t know why they didn’t do any updates past Breezy. They suggest that it was because of problems with network cards and later kernels but I don’t get it. Since when do software updates for an operating system have anything to do with what kernel is running? If there is a problem with hardware support for the network card you have two choices. The first is to fix the driver yourself or pay some one to do it. The second is to replace the network card to a better supported device. Both situations could be costly but it would get the problem fixed and five of the servers wouldn’t have been taken down at the same time.
If the kernels were configured correctly, the boxes probably wouldn’t of even had to have been rebooted.
Running FTP instead of a more secure version is not so bad unless they were running accounts with higher privileges than guest or using system accounts. In which case thats just stupid.

The Gentoo Situation [bugs.gentoo.org]
Apparently there is a problem in the packages.gentoo.org script. The bugzilla article goes into deeper explanation but basically there is some pretty unsafe code which could have allowed any one to run any command. I understand that the code is old but it probably should have been audited at some point. The problem would have stuck out like a soar thumb if looked at by a python coder and they probably would have fixed it, or at least suggested a fix. The problem was found on Tuesday the 7th. All of the infra- (I assume they mean infrastructure?) guys were at a conference last week so they couldn’t work on it. It still seems that if they were at the conference until midnight on the 12th they would still have been able to put up a coming back soon placeholder on the packages site by now. Hey, if they put some pay per click ads up there maybe they will get some additional funds during the down time. I would like to see what products would be pushed thru the advertising on that one. I believe that they could have reduced the downtime by releasing the code for the packages.gentoo.org site as open source or by asking for help from developers to review and upgrade the code as needed.

Its not strange for web servers get hacked. They get hacked all the time but who’s fault is it in the open source community? I really think that there is a problem in the community when it comes to situations like this but the blame can’t be placed on any one person. I would offer any assistance I could into getting these situations resolved but its not as easy as that. There has to be a certain level of trust for those working within a project. If they gave out keys to their servers to anyone the servers probably would have been compromised a long time ago. I hope that the affected sites can pull them selfs together and get back up and running as normal. It seems that Ubuntu did not have complete down time, but the Gentoo site is still down and there is no indication of when it will be back up.

Living Without Windows

Filed under: General Linux — TheLinuxBlog.com at 8:58 pm on Monday, January 8, 2007

Some may have heard the quote:
“In a world without fences, who needs Windows and Gates?” Although this phrase is clever and slightly funny in reality people do need to use and rely on Windows to do their business on a daily basis.

Like it or not, Windows is here to stay. Given how frustrating it may be, it is not going away any time soon. I have heard so many people complaining about how much they dislike Windows and explain how it is a badly coded unstable operating system but they still choose to run it.
If it were such a bad operating system why do so many people use it? And why is Microsoft still in business? The answer is clear – There is no better alternative for every situation. Some people make claims that Linux is better. Is it? Do these people use it on a daily basis and know that it is in fact a better operating system? It may be a better operating system for one purpose but it is not better in every situation. An example of this could be in the medical field. Imagine the staff are very familiar with Windows and know how to operate it to complete their job. Now imagine your life depended on the staff being able to do their job. Is Linux still a better choice for the given situation?

Linux may be a little harder to set up and use but once a user is familiar with Linux it rewards them with the flexibility they need to get the job done. Tasks that are possible with Linux are not always as simple to accomplish with Windows without pricey third party software.

So how can I live without Windows?

There are two excuses people often use when not running Linux. One is hardware support and the other is software. Below I offer some solutions to these two problems.

Software

Open Source Alternative
A lot of times if the application one relies on doesn’t work on Linux an alternative piece of software is available. If searching freshmeat.net and sourceforge.net yields no results. Asking on forums may also spark some interest with your application need.

Use Cross Platform Software
As a casual Windows user I like to use software that works on Windows, Linux and BSD variants.
Below are some application categories and solutions.

Development: Zend Studio (Java) Commercial
Development: JEdit (Java) Open Source
Development: Eclipse (Java) Open Source
Mind Mapping: Freemind (Java) Open Source
Project Management: Gantt (Java) Open Source
Graphics: Gimp (C++) Open Source
Graphics: InkScape (C++) Open Source
3D Graphics: Blender3D (C++) Open Source
Instant Messaging: Gaim (C++) Open Source
Instant Messaging: aMSN (C++) Open Source
Office: OpenOffice (C++ & Java) Open Source

Web Applications
Most web applications are cross platform and are very good at the task at hand. Some may be free while others come with a subscription fee. They may be not be as fast as desktop equivalents and response time may vary but web applications are becoming more popular.

Run your Windows applications on Linux
If you do not with to find an alternative piece of software there are some options that may be appealing to you.

Wine
Using a little setup time and a handy toolkit called Wine (Wine is not an emulator) one can run many applications on the Linux desktop without ever touching windows. Except possibly for copying important DLL files.

Cross Over Office
Cross over office is a commercial piece of software which uses wine. It eases the installation process for many supported applications.

Virtual Machines
Virtual Machines are perfect for the more modern faster machines out there. By using the commercial VMWare server (now free) the Open Source Xen or QEMU machine emulators one can run a virtual copy of windows inside an X11 Session. If your machine is powerful enough it may even be faster then an underpowered separate computer.
VMWare Server: http://www.vmware.com/products/server/
Xen: http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/Research/SRG/netos/xen/
QEMU: http://www.qemu.org

Another Physical PC
Nobody said that you couldn’t use a Windows box. This obviously provides the most compatibility with the software you may own. Personal Computers continue to drop in price and a reasonably equipped machine that is capable of running an older version of windows can be purchased for a reasonable price.
Potential Problems and Solutions
Space
Purchase a smaller PC
Keyboard / Mouse / Monitor
If you don’t want a separate keyboard, mouse and monitor on your desk you could purchase a KVM and use your current setup.
Use VNC. By using VNC and a LAN connection you can effectively use the computer as if you were right in front of it. I do not recommend this method over wireless connections, as the quality of the VNC session may not be very good.

Hardware

One drawback of using Linux is a lack of hardware support. Although most major hardware is supported often one may run across some strange hardware that is not supported. Often this is also used as an excuse to run Windows.

NDIS Wrapper
If you have a wireless card that has no native driver, it is probably possible to get it working with NDIS Wrapper. This allows one to use Windows wireless drivers under Linux. A friend of mine has successfully used this approach to get his Dell Inspiron wireless working.

Laptop Support
I once owned a Compaq Evo 1000v which I had successfully installed Slackware on. The hardware support seemed buggy at the time, but Linux did run on it. I traded it with a local PC store owner for a smaller underpowered Toshiba Portégé 4010 which I now have a working installation.

Peripherals
Often the techie type PC users have a lot of gadgets. Depending on how many other users have this gadget there may or may not be a driver available. If there is not, all hope is not lost.

VMWare
Sometimes with certain type devices VMWare can be used. I successfully used this method to use Linux with a Parallax PIC micro controller, which is programmable by a serial connection. All that needs to be done here is some toying with the VMWare settings.

Buy new hardware
If you have a need for a particular device and support is available for similar devices. But not your particular piece of hardware, sometimes it is advisable to purchase new hardware.

Develop a solution
If buying new hardware is not an option due to funds or no other available hardware and searching yielded no results. Posting to forums may help. If other users have this hardware maybe some one out there with the skills necessary could start a project. With a project started more owners of this hardware will find the project and may be able to chip-in.

Ignore the problem
If you are really lazy like me you may just choose to wait and do nothing about the hardware support. In some rare cases this approach will work. Ignoring the lack of hardware support and just using Linux anyway is sometimes a better approach. For example, my roommate refused to use Linux on his main PC because there was no support for his second on board Ethernet so he used Windows. What baffled me was that he wasn’t even using the second Ethernet card under windows. Some time passed and a new kernel got released, low and behold a driver for his controller is now included. He finally installs Linux and went through all of the trouble of backing up files and the installation routine again. This could have been avoided if Linux was used to begin with.
If the hardware doesn’t cause any system problems then the only problem is that the device simply doesn’t work.

Conclusion
The best way to learn Linux is to become surrounded with it.
It is easy to use Linux as a primary operating system and for those interested in Information Technology and a lot can be learned.

So which is better for me?
I could say that Windows is less practical for me because it does not always provide the flexibility I need. Constant issues with stability and drivers not working also become a problem when it is not possible for me to repair them.

After using Linux as my primary operating system for a while it has become clear how much users are restrained by using Windows. For example I have become accustomed to the Xfce 4 keyboard shortcuts and I create workspaces for different groups of applications I have running to perform a certain task. With my Windows PC at work there is no way for me to organize my windows in a way that makes sense to me. I find my self closing all applications and opening them one by one to reorder them in a way that makes sense. My productivity is higher when I am working on a Linux Box. Therefore I would say that Linux is my preferred choice.